Worried about leads and sales? You're not alone. If it's any comfort, at some point the slowdown in housing, the credit crunch, and the free-fall in consumer confidence will be behind us. Your company will probably still be here. The question is, will your employees?

Business consultants talk about employees being a company's greatest asset. But that means nothing unless the owner invests his time and attention making it happen.

If you're an owner, chances are good it was because at some point you didn't like being an employee. You may even have resolved that the company you owned would be a great place to work.

But what, exactly, does that mean to employees? It doesn't necessarily equate to ample compensation plans and generous benefits. Ask yourself:

1. Do you know your employees' names? When you call someone by his or her name, you indicate that they're important. Not knowing their name, or not bothering to use it, sends the opposite message.

2. Do you open your company's books? Your employees see paperwork; they know what you charge for a job. They probably also know what roofing, siding, and windows cost when purchased from a distributor. They figure you're rolling in money. Care to enlighten them? When you break jobs down and show staff how much gross profit is generated and where it goes, you dispel the illusion of the owner as moneybags. You also put yourself in a position to set not just sales but productivity and cost-savings targets, rewarding employees by cutting them in on additional profit points.

3. Do you have monthly meetings? If you do, you're providing an opportunity to build teams, recognize and reward contributions and loyalty, dispel damaging rumors, clarify inconsistencies, explain your point of view, and get feedback from staff.

4. Is your workplace safe? Not from crime, necessarily, but from bullying, bigotry, sexual harassment, and corrosive gossip?

5. What do you do to show employees you appreciate them? "Pay 'em,"you grumble. Ever take anybody out to lunch? Write a note commemorating a wedding, birth, or other personal event? When was the last time you let fly with a simple compliment?

But you may be thinking: I've got enough to worry about.

Well, wouldn't it be great if the people you paid to work for you did that worrying for you?

Jim Cory,